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Council on Foreign Relations: Update on the Nepal Earthquake

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Alyssa Ayres, CFR’s senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, led an on-the-record conversation this afternoon on the international and domestic response efforts to the recent earthquakes in Nepal. An estimated 8,000 people were killed, 17,000 injured, and 600,000 out of the 30 million total homes destroyed. Infrastructure continues to destabilize and monsoon season is only six weeks away. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) made a flash appeal for $423 million in assistance from its member-states, 10% which has since been pledged. April 25- The first earthquake hits northwest of Kathmandu with a magnitude of 7.9 May 12- The second aftershocks hit in and around Kathmandu with a magnitude of 7.3 Nepal is situated between two tectonic plates. The Indian Plate is currently moving north-east at 2.0 inches per year, while the Eurasian Plate is moving north at only 0.79 inches per year. Periodically, tension must be released along these fault lines. The last major earthquake in the area occurred on the border of Nepal and Bihar, India in 1934. indian-and-eurasian-plates Politically, Nepal finds itself in the middle of transition from a monarchy to a parliamentary democracy. They have “successfully come out of this political transition” as Ms. Ayres described, but are still in the process of writing the constitution. Nepalese have long been aware of the possibility of another earthquake, but were not in a place politically to organize for one. The immediate response to the earthquakes from international community has been strong. Regionally, India has been leading relief efforts with China & Pakistan also being very active. Countries such as Bangaldesh and even Israel have sent teams on the ground. The United States has made a series of pledges totalling almost $28 million. Canada has pledged $8 million, Australia $7 million, and the European Union $6 million. Assessments for rebuilding Nepal are ongoing, with one estimate being as high as $10 billion. The total GDP of Nepal is only $20 billion so the disaster puts a huge financial strain on the economy. There have been over 68 UNESCO world heritage sites damaged from the quakes, including Swayambhunath, the oldest Buddhist monument in the region. Listen to the whole transcript of the CFR call here.